Social Innovation Camp


MyDownhamMarket is all about coming up with new ideas to make your local area better using simple web and mobile tools.”

In June 2010, I joined other designers, web developers and councillors to participate in an intensely creative Social Innovation Camp called ‘MyDownhamMarket’, which was financially supported by the young foundation , NESTA and West-Norfolk Council.

Two people from Social Innovation Camp and The Young Foundation ran the workshop in King’s Lynn Norfolk, a rural UK region, which has fairly typical social problems. Local young people were invited to the event on facebook and were asked to submit new ideas for the Downham area that would make it a socially better place to live and encourage more community cohesion.

Joined by several members of the King Lynn and Norfolk council, 35 designers and web developers were divided into small teams to co-design solutions to 4 top challenges, selected from a group brainstorm. These were turned rapidly into new service prototypes, which were then presented to everyone involved at the close of the day.

My team comprised of the young person who submitted their social challenge via Facebook, two local councillors, a web developer and two design students. In an intense 7hr day, we collaborated to propose a new community service idea, enabled by technology, and designed to meet an identified social need in the local community.

Problem | In discussions amongst the team, it was revealed that Downham Market has inadequate public transport services to meet young people’s needs. Parents constant and unsustainable use of private cars to run their children to social events and collect them afterwards is the prevailing solution. The team agreed there was a need for a new community transport service, but which would belong to and be run by local people using available resources.

Norfolk is geographically large, but has a small population and like most rural areas, is suffering from social problems. The local Council, with their currently squeezed resources, is ineffective in reaching out to meet the needs of the widely dispersed community.

The solution | Our team’s service concept was to empower pre-teens and teenagers to collaborate by creating a website, which could be administered with secure access and integrate all the popular social media tools to offer a social-exchange platform, which could advertise events and facilitate shared transport arrangements to get there and back within a 25 mile radius of Downham Market.

Benefits | The service would be co-designed with young people to engage them in the design process and create an emotional stake in the success of the service.

By adopting a social media platform, the website and App would become the marketing channel for local events, and would facilitate and manage currently available resources to create a shared transport network.

Shared transport resources would include ‘on-call’ parents, using their private cars and also older drivers often socially excluded in a community. The scheme would therefore help to create opportunities for new intergenerational community links, which would further encourage social and community cohesion.

Outcomes | Our team presented a service prototype, visualised as a story board. Although it was rough, it communicated the potential of the idea, which through further development could create real environmental, economic and social value.

Learning | With more time and a wider pool of stakeholders offering solutions to some of the knowledge gaps highlighted in our service proposal (economics, trust and social responsibility) the team felt that further development work could engage with and fill any gaps. It was generally felt that more time for further iterative design development and testing would allow for the creation of a more robust service proposition.

Shared value | The four proposals presented at the end of the day inspired and encouraged all who came to the event that finding solutions to complex social problems is possible by using a Service Design approach.

It was generally felt by everyone that Social Innovation Camp demonstrated that collaboration between designers and non-designers on social projects, could offer new ways to co-create solutions to some of the UK’s most complex social innovation challenges.

I was also inspired by these social innovation platforms that I found online, which connect New York based designers to not-for-profit organisations, both facing their own challenges in the economic downturn: desigNYC ” & NYC Service